Brookhaven, GA, September 28, 2016 – by Trey Benton – The Brookhaven-Peachtree Overlay is a very sensitive topic, particularly among those who were involved in its initial creation more than 10 years ago, and is a product of work with DeKalb County to perform a Livable Community Initiative Study (LCI). That LCI study led to the creation of the Overlay District, now “ground zero” in terms new development activity since the City of Brookhaven was formed.
It’s also a sensitive topic to those who struggle to understand what the Overlay language actually says and how it is (and has been) interpreted as development proposals are submitted to the community and the City. Community members have asked for a reasonable, but specific plan on what land uses they can expect to see now and over time, with more predictability. Residents are anxious to “restore sanity” to the process so they are not continually in defense mode, often surprised by what is being proposed.
Prior to the September 27th City Council Meeting, the proposed contract award was punted. And Brookhaven Councilmembers decided Tuesday evening that instead of awarding a $136,500 contract to consultant Sycamore Consulting and TSW, a Planning and Architectural firm, they will put the project out to bid – stating that it had nothing to do with Sycamore’s and TSW’s ability per se.
City Councilman Bates Mattison, who presides over Brookhaven’s District 3 the Overlay covers portions of, pushed for the Council to pump the brakes and slow down the Overlay review and rewrite process in the interest of the work being performed by the most qualified vendor and “getting it right.”
“The root of the problem is there is a disconnect between what the Overlay says and what the community wants,” Mattison told The Post in an earlier interview. “That’s a big conversation. Something of this significance and importance, you don’t want to rush.”
The scope of work to review and rewrite the Brookhaven Peachtree-Overlay District, involves the City replacing the current language as found in the City’s Zoning Ordinance. “Based on the unique characteristics and needs of the Overlay, a separate and independent process is needed to review and develop a new code for this area to ensure high quality development to account for the transition of development that has and will take place,” the City says. “The desire to adopt a new Overlay code resulted from a 180‐day moratorium on zoning action approved by the City Council on August 19, 2016.”
According to the City, the purpose of the Overlay regulation rewrite is to provide regulations which incorporates the land use policies identified in the City’s Comprehensive Plan and other planning and policy documents. Subsequently, additional objectives of the project are to develop a coherent and straightforward set of regulations, eliminating conflicting language; placing a greater emphasis on architectural standards and requirements to develop and define the concept of an “urban village,” and to determine the appropriate type of zoning code to apply – Form‐Based Zoning, Traditional Overlay or a Hybrid.
One of the deliverables is the creation of a strategy document which should provide “a high level overview of key elements that will be addressed in the new Overlay code and general strategies or regulations that will be considered.” The City seeks a final product that “will provide the proper regulations and incentives for redevelopment in appropriate areas, maintaining and enhancing areas that are not likely for redevelopment, and protection of single‐family neighborhoods within and that border the perimeter of the Overlay district.”
This effort will include associated activities needed for implementation, such as the detailed review and analysis of the current Overlay regulations, Land Development Codes, Comprehensive Plan, and other local and state codes that may be related to or impact the Overlay.
Some Project Objectives are:
- Implementation of the City’s Comprehensive Plan/Character Area Study
- Development of a legally sound and defensible zoning district
- Creation of a user‐friendly Overlay code that utilizes clear, concise and common sense language
- Creation of Design Guidelines for the Overlay that provides specific illustrations and detailed drawings, where appropriate
- Preservation and protection of established residential neighborhoods, single‐family uses, while incentivizing redevelopment in specific, targeted areas – refer to City’s 2034 Comprehensive
Plan for guidance:
- Regulations that incentivize or require a greater degree of open space and more sustainable development practices
- Inclusion of best practices to create a multi‐modal environment
- Enhancement of the architectural requirements and guidelines that defines an “urban village” environment
- Creation of sub‐areas for the Overlay to handle differing built environments and land use factors
Submit progress reports to the City’s project manager on a monthly basis. Progress reports will briefly summarize work accomplished to date, progress of specific work tasks, key decisions that will require input or discussion with City staff, and a list of any significant challenges or unresolved issues.
Prepare, submit, and monitor the project schedule. The project schedule shall be updated monthly and submitted with the monthly project report.
Conduct meetings and presentations that will include an initial project meeting with City staff, periodic progress meetings, community involvement meetings, and other meetings as necessary throughout the preparation and adoption, where applicable, of Key Deliverables.
Community involvement is a critical component of all City of Brookhaven planning efforts.
As part of the initial information gathering stage, consultants shall gather a sense of the prevailing sentiment among business/property owners, City staff, elected officials, and other key stakeholders the City will help the consultant identify. The initial, and any necessary follow‐up interviews, shall facilitate the understanding of the existing environment and development pattern expected in the region over the next 20 years.
The Mayor and Council may appoint a Sounding Board of community residents and business owners to assist with this project. The Sounding Board will not necessarily have any technical knowledge or specific financial stake in the outcome of the project, but are generally interested in the City’s wellbeing. The Sounding Board is an important method of gathering input, akin to a standing focus group, but will not be steering the process or directing the consulting team’s efforts. We anticipate gaining input and preliminary feedback for different Key Deliverables prior to each community meeting and presentation to the City Council.
The selected consultant will meet with the Sounding Board at least four (4) times throughout the course of the project to solicit feedback and ensure that the best interests of the community are being acknowledged and addressed.
Initial community meetings will need to help educate the public at large about what the Zoning Ordinance does, how it is arranged, and why it is relevant to them. Later meetings will need to gather input on defining issues and alternatives, build community consensus, and provide meaningful avenues for input from the community.
The City shall require up to 4 community (public) meetings and up to three separate occasions provide a mobile “pop up” station to solicit input from the public at various locations within the Overlay district prior to the adoption process. Proposers shall include relevant information regarding scheduling of community meetings and “pop up” stations.
The consultant shall be responsible to provide digital modeling of the Overlay District based on existing zoning, with a focus on key development sites in the Overlay. Also, modeling of development alternatives based on the Draft Metrics could shape development on key development sites. The model is not required to show detailed building designs but provide a bird’s eye view massing envelopes.
Deputy Director of Community Development, Patrice Ruffin, said Tuesday, the process of advertising for the proposals through the eventual award of the contract, is expected to take about three months. The amount of time to actually perform the work could take several months, thereafter.